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Uncertainty is Uncomfortable

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November 3, 2010 Tags: Divine Action & Purpose

Today's video features Kathryn Applegate. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of BioLogos. You can read more about what we believe here.

In this video “Conversation,” BioLogos Program Director Kathryn Applegate points to evolutionary science as a way to gain a richer understanding of the glory of God.

Scientists become fairly comfortable with a certain level of uncertainty within scientific data, notes Applegate, but that is not the case for most people. Uncertainty—especially where faith is concerned—can be scary for people who want a black and white answer. Yet science has all of the subtlety of a beautiful painting that is hard to encapsulate in a sound byte.

God speaks through the Bible and all sorts of other things that comport with the Bible, says Applegate. “Science is another way of studying what God does. How he created and how he continues to create. God is active and involved. We see that through the means of a continuous creation through evolution,” she says.

That is really exciting and allows us to better understand the character of God. God is infinitely creative and infinitely good. Looking to Genesis for scientific data is like looking at the notes on the page of a symphonic score without ever hearing the music—you miss all the richness. “Not that the notes aren’t important,” says Applegate, but they do not offer the complete picture and it isn’t the primary purpose of those texts.

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Commentary written by the BioLogos editorial team.

Kathryn Applegate is Program Director at The BioLogos Foundation. She received her PhD in computational cell biology at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif. At Scripps, she developed computer vision software tools for analyzing the cell's infrastructure, the cytoskeleton.

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Papalinton - #38679

November 5th 2010

Hi leadme.org

“It appears that we are witnesses to and participants in a mighty cosmic struggle.”

This is a most grandiloquent of claims.  Nothing by half in making such claims by the believer will suffice.  ‘My god is so much bigger, stronger, greater, and more powerful than your god, says the christian to a competing religionist,  ‘in fact he is so strong he is omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent, so there’.

Your level of conflation is simply astounding.  You are a legend in your own mind, leadme.org. And from me, to borrow from Nedbrek’s comment above, you are a rebel without a clue.

And all this happening on a miniscule speck of dirt in an out-of-the-way galaxy at the periphery of the cosmos, insignificant in the massive scale of the universe.  You can’t get more insignificant than that, so why do christians beat themselves even lower by declaring yourself fallen and miserable?

If this ‘mighty cosmic struggle’ is an example of logic it simply reinforces the notion I mentioned to defensedefumer above, ‘theist logic is shrouded in theo-speak, a veritable ‘talking in tongue’ which has firstly to be deciphered to extract the ‘nub’ of the argument.


Papalinton - #38682

November 5th 2010

Hi Nedbrek

You say,  “To say that “atheism is a logical choice” (or even “the only logical”) is inconsistent.  Logic presupposes meaning, purpose and God.

The only difference between between a theist and an atheist is:
THEIST:    Logic presupposes meaning, purpose and God.
ATHEIST:  Logic presupposes meaning, purpose.

Nothing inconsistent and a deal less complicated.  The application of Ocham’s razor.


Papalinton - #38684

November 5th 2010

Hi leadme.org

I apologise for the ad hominems in #38679. 
Please respond to the substance of the argument only, although you are entitled to a free kick in ad hominems if you wish, and I will take it on the chin.


leadme.org - #38685

November 5th 2010

Hi Papalinton,

Actually, I thought #38679 was rather funny.  Hey, like I said, if you don’t agree, I won’t try to beat you up over it.  In my defense, though, I did say my apologetic was unabashedly aesthetic/intuitive, not some sort of monolithic “proof” of God.  And I’m not sure your response was particularly relevant to what I said.  Anyway…


Papalinton - #38697

November 5th 2010

Hi Nedbrek
I wrote, “The only difference between between a theist and an atheist is:
THEIST:  Logic presupposes meaning, purpose and God.
ATHEIST:  Logic presupposes meaning, purpose.”

In addition to the above, when one observes from a broader global perspective, it is clear that the basis for ‘Logic presupposes meaning, purpose’  is universal, a humanist perspective.  If one deducts all those that believe in the god of judeo-christian writings, those that either have rejected, or have never heard of jesus, would aggregate to around 4-5 billion people.  These people have lived loved, had families exactly the same as any other family, christian or otherwise, just as their forebears have done since Homo sapiens sapiens came into existence. 

The only difference is the thousands and thousands of gods that previously existed and those extant.  To suggest that the christianities is different because it has been around for 2000 years is spurious, as the Egyptian religion was around for some 3.5-4000 years before it faded away.  So longevity is not a particularly reliable claim to make. And as we have so many thousands of living religions today, who is to say which is correct?


nedbrek - #38698

November 5th 2010

“Logic presupposes meaning, purpose.”  But you’ve admitted there is no global meaning or purpose.

Do you find the charge of hedonism so onerous?

defensedefumer - #38729

November 5th 2010


Respectfully, I do not think I was avoiding the issue. My earlier main point was that a theistic point of view is consistent with what you observe with the world. But if you want to talk about Hindiuism other religions, let’s talk about that.

Now you ask good questions that had plagued me before too. Which religion is the right one? Is there even a right religion? How much physical evidence do we accept for a metaphysical claim?

For instance, some of my Muslim friends say the Quran (and therefore their God) is true because no one has ever produced a work of beautiful poetry as the Quran. Is that an acceptable claim? Why or why not?

You argue that if our God exists the world should be different from what it is now. How and why?

Thanks for your time, and have a good weekend!

merv - #38807

November 6th 2010

Hi, Papalinton—sorry I haven’t been able to follow this recently as life intervenes (some of us have jobs!)  So I apologize if somewhere in all the morass above this has been hashed.

But my question for you is this:  What is your vision for people, for your community, for the world? (and I mean this in the most secular sense possible, so that you can understand—not a “dream” or anything religious, just “vision”)  If we were to suddenly be amenable to your persuasions, then what is it you would wish for us?  I can venture a start:  that you would want us to be free of religion—or certainly from theism anyway, and yet to continue to be decent and loving people (would ‘truthful’ be in there somewhere?)  and what if ‘truthful’ seemed in opposition to decent or loving?  Would you council personal & reproductive survival as the “top value”?

You often fall back on the well-worn “which religion is right?”.  So if the world is flooded with differing compasses—some faulty or misleading, some just a little off, some completely off, then why do you blindly declare that there must be no such thing as true north?  You would set folks adrift with ......  what?  That’s what I’m digging for.  Your vision.

merv - #38808

November 6th 2010

If it is no more than “Just find your own way—and Oh, by the way remember to be a good & decent person while you’re at it because I say so.”  —- then all I can say is ... been there.  Done that.  Everyone doing what is right in their own eyes is a recurring and unpleasant theme that goes all the way back.

Also—while I’m in skeptical mode;  poor Occam has fallen on hard times, you realize—and I’m speaking just from within science here.  Relativity was a shock at the time, but the boat steadied, only to get wonkered with QM, and now string theory, brane theories, or multiple universes, etc. are not helping.  The late atheist Haldane was probably more right than he knew in concluding that the universe is stranger than we *can* imagine.  Not that you can’t maintain that eternal hope for Occam to triumph in the end.  He may—and I for one as a harassed secondary science teacher, would be cheering louder than most for a long overdue victory.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #39129

November 9th 2010

I find many problems on both sides, conservative and liberal, on the use of words.  The biggest issue is the use of the word certainty.  Most people seem to think that “certainty” is a synonym for “faith,”  when it is not.  In fact faith is maintaining something is true or probably true, when one is NOT certain that it is true.  One can be certain that something is true only when one has tangible, i.e. scientific, evidence that it is true.  Faith believes, or better hopes and expects something is true, not against the evidence, but before all the evidence is in.  We have faith in the promise of eternal life before we meet God face to face. 

While there are some Christians who want their God to work inside the black and white box their theology has created, many Christians know that while Jesus is the answers prayers, His answers are usually different from what they expect.  Wise Christians do not tell God what to do and how to do it, but trust in God to do the right thing.  In this sense they maintain a true uncertainty principle.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #39130

November 9th 2010

Part 2

Science is also based on faith.  It is based on the faith that the secrets of the universe are comprehensible.  Sometimes scientists fall into the certainty trap, as in that they are certain they understand how evolution works when they only have a partial understanding.  They have faith that science can unlock the secrets of the universe, but are certain that none of these secrets involve God.

Papalinton - #39265

November 10th 2010

@ Roger Sawtelle
“Science is also based on faith.  It is based on the faith that the secrets of the universe are comprehensible.”

Do not conflate science with faith.  It sends an ambiguous and erroneous message.  Science is not based on faith. It is based on trust, a wholly different conceptual framework.  That trust is based on the proposition that the secrets of the universe are comprehensible.  So far so good in its explanatory power.  Even the various scientific hypotheses, of as yet inexplicable nature, of the quantum world are more enlightening and visionary with a far greater level of explanatory power than that offered by its very distant cousin, theology, in matters of how the universe is constructed. 
You say, “They have faith that science can unlock the secrets of the universe, but are certain that none of these secrets involve God.”  A silly statement.  I say, a more honest statement from science is that ‘it is not certain that god is/isn’t involved.  Rather there has been to date no compelling reason or evidence to even suggest that there is a positive case.  All that has been revealed through science has been achieved without any need to factor in the ‘god did it’ maxim.

Surely that’s obvious.

nedbrek - #39270

November 10th 2010

Papalinton, I missed your explanation of how your worldview has any hope or meaning.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #39335

November 10th 2010


To say something is obvious clearly reveals that you are caught in the trap of certainty.  Nothing in life is obvious.

Please explain how trust and faith are different.  Christians have faith and trust in God, which we have not seen, but we have experienced.  I expect that you trust is the laws of nature, which you also have not seen, but have experienced.  Christians also trust in the laws of nature, which we believe to be created by God and rooted in God’s character of faithfulness.

As to whether “All that has been revealed through science has been achieved without any need to factor in the ‘god did it’ maxim” may be so, except for the Primal questions of Why did it all begin? and Where did it come from? and science does not make any sense without these questions being answered.

Scanman - #39345

November 10th 2010


Nedbrek has it right…for an atheist, there is no purpose to life.

For an atheist…

all that we are,

all that we’ve done,

all that we know,

will someday come to an end…oblivion.

Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.

Paul said it best:
“If the dead are not raised,

  “Let us eat and drink,
  for tomorrow we die.”1 Cor 15:32

A sane mind cannot rightfully contemplate the futility of existence without eventually going mad.


Trevor K. - #39484

November 12th 2010

The wages is of sin is death - a simple cause and effect, whether you want to run around it or not. So for those who believe in evolution,  death has been engineered into the creation from the start because without it you cannot get the incremental improvements that the ideology of evolution [molecules-to-man] requires. Thus the conclusion that sin was in the creation from the start.
If you cannot accept that then you must discard the statement that “the wages of sin is death”. Hence you must discard the rest of the bible too.
I can understand that one can be a new-born Christian and believe in the abomination called evolution[molecules-to-man] which denies the glory of God. But then when you get better informed and still stubbornly refuse to humble yourself and repent, it’s a simple matter of then being a false prophet.

Reading for today: http://creation.com/laws-of-information-2

Trevor K. - #39485

November 12th 2010

At Papalinton - #39265

Science operates from a faith basis ALL the time: A researcher speculates on an answer to a problem and has FAITH that s/he is right about it. Then pursues it till it’s either validated or falsified. Science requires faith. Period.

Trevor K. - #39486

November 12th 2010

If evolutionary science reveals God’s character, then one has to conclude that God is a God of pain, death and suffering. One can then expect more of the same to come in the new creation. In fact why would one want to be there in the first place since we know God is this cruel beast that will simply perpetuate the suffering we see around us today. We really cannot trust Him, take him at his WORD, because He talks a lot of nonsense when He speaks in Genesis 1.

You must really go and read http://creation.com/laws-of-information-2 and start to think differently.

Papalinton - #39543

November 12th 2010

@ Trevor K

You believe in a talking snake
You believe that someone’s dead rotting corpse came back to life
You believe a person can walk on water
You believe is a burning talking bush
You believe the universe was formed in 6 days
You believe an omnipotent, omniscient thing needed a holiday break on one day of the week
You believe in parthenogenisis
You believe in visitant impregnation

Rocks in the head comes to mind.

If one has belief, knowledge is lacking.
If one has knowledge, belief is unnecessary.


nedbrek - #39544

November 12th 2010

Papalinton, now that is truly hilarious.  You believe that time + mud = man.  We creationists believe God + mud = man.  And you still haven’t differentiated your worldview from hedonism.

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